Tuesday 12 November 2013

MMOs: Winning Conditions

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

You are the chosen one. The hero who saved the day. Just like everyone else.

That's the feeling I and many others get when MMO's offer a main storyline quest. In Guildwars 2 I'm the commander of the Pact, second only to a lettuce man (the true hero of the story), and I've helped slay an elder dragon. Any character that completes that main quest can say the previous line and it would be true, but by having so many of them existing in the same world at the same time really kills any importance or bearing it may have had. Indeed, there are as many winning conditions as there are people playing so why force everyone into one mold?

Unique experiences are always the best ones which is why human controlled game masters add so much to virtual worlds for me. However since they seem to be being phased out of the online scene I think that instead (or aside) from the main "plot" each character should be given their own quest, their own reason for existing - and who better to decide what that is than the player playing it. Part of the character creation would be including a goal. A few examples might be:

-Finish the main story (if there is one)
-Find the secret doo hickey in the secret dungeon that constantly changes position and ONLY YOU can find
-Get all the (non cash shop, non tradeable) hats. Possibly one from that secret dungeon above
-Kill x number of specific targets (players) randomly chosen by the game (must be people who have been active lately)
-Slay the boss of whatever dungeon on a particular difficulty
-Forge the uber sword of uberness
-Assist x number of other players achieve their final personal goal

However, they also need to choose a fail condition. The two simplest that come to mind are finish within x number of months or die x number of times. Now the catch is if you fail OR succeed, that character is then retired (complete with cutscene). Maybe you can still log in as them, but you will be limited to being in the safe zones only for RP and show-off purposes or some other limitation. If you wish to keep playing, you will need to create a new character who will have their own overarching goal. Should their predecessor(s) have been successful maybe they start off with a cumulative bonus (like the uber sword) based on how difficult the previous goal was and how harsh the fail condition was. Indeed, not all stories will have happy endings.

Guess how Xena ends.

It's still a hamster wheel. All I've done is add some stops and removed some over population (of players) in the higher end zones. I'm guessing if any game attempts this they'd still need an option just to have a "standard" character though for those who want to opt out - of course those characters cannot gain benefits from any previous ones. What do you think? Would you play a game with this setup or does having a visible finish line break the whole concept of an MMO?


  1. I think the defining reason of what makes an MMO so attractive over other games is the fact that it never ends. I mean, sure, you can beat the baddest of baddies, but then new content will be released. The big baddie will change, be harder to beat, and then the game continues.

    Pretty much every game has a multiplayer outfit to it, now, so games that have a definitive ending, and still let you eff around with friends, that sounds more like what you are describing. But I think this has a lot to do with blurring the line of what is an MMO anymore. I mean, look at Diablo 3. What about Diablo 3 doesn't make it an MMO? You play with friends, there are random strangers in your games, auction houses (not for much longer, though), etc.

    I do like the idea of "kill this specific person". Of course for that to work, the game would need to be FFA PvP, but it would definitely add a dimension greater than "kill x other players".

    But that is the crux of the MMO, how do you make your story both heroic and epic and, at the same time, not special? In LotRO, your character is helping the Ringbearer, but indirectly. Hence, I think, why GW2 used Traehearn. However, in GW2, your character has a voice, and is the main focus for practically all of it, until you reach him, and then you take a back seat. That doesn't feel as nice.

    But compared to every other player around you? Well... you just have to act like they don't exist when it comes to your story. Willing suspension of disbelief. It's a powerful tool of movies and theatre. Essentially, "just go along with it, believe in the points that make no sense, and you'll enjoy the story more".

    1. Good point there Ocho. Also thanks for not using the "stop telling other people how to play" response I was kinda expecting. :P

      D3 is not an MMO the same way Path of Exile isn't. It's a multiplayer online game, but not a "massive" one given you only have a handful of people in any zone at a time. I think they self define themselves as Action RPGs (ARPG) with a multiplayer aspect.

      I don't think adding stops to an MMO ride is a good idea for publishers either huh. Ok ok I guess this one goes into the "not so good ideas" bin. ;)